Open Learning Lab renovated for flexibility

By Douglas Esser

Kyle Dybdahl
Kohl Dybdahl, a Media and Communication Studies major, has been creating graphic designs since he was a high school student in Steilacoom, Washington.

When he arrived at the University of Washington Bothell, he produced posters and pamphlets for clubs he joined. Dybdahl, above, was delighted to find the Open Learning Lab (OLL) as a resource for his projects and a way to gain more experience with software resources.

Over last summer, the OLL underwent a renovation, thanks to $232,000 from the Student Technology Fee Committee. The lab in Commons Hall (UW2-140) reopened on Oct. 15 with a new design, computing equipment and furniture.

Dybdahl is now even more delighted with the resource.

“It was just fantastic,” said Dybdahl, who is working to graduate in 2020. “The difference is night and day.”

Rows of computers on tables have been replaced by 32 workstations, including 13 Windows and 19 Mac computers, in a more open layout. “There’s a sense of privacy, but there’s also a sense of collaboration,” said Dybdahl.

He also likes that each station has an up-down desk, so he can stand. “I’m a taller guy, so I don’t usually get the experience of finding a desk at my height,” he said.

The adjustable desks are also common at graphic design firms he has toured. “It’s a good way to start experiencing the work flow the way employees would,” Dybdahl said.

The big screen Avacor Surface Hub on a wall is like the one he saw at a Microsoft store, “and now I see it here!” The 65-inch touch screen allows groups of students to collaborate on a project, with each person able to draw on the screen by hand.

Big screen touch screen monitor
Renovated Open Learning Lab / Marc Studer photos

The lab, which welcomes about 12,000 student visits a year, is the only drop-in computer lab on campus. Other computer labs on campus are used for classes, said Salem Levesque, a digital learning specialist in the UW Bothell Office of Digital Learning & Innovation, which is part of the Office of Academic Affairs.

“It’s the gateway for students to get help with the digital media and e-learning tools that we have,” Levesque said. “This lab is for the whole campus, creating space for students to come and work, to have real flexibility, to work how they feel comfortable.”

Open Learning Lab
Renovated Open Learning Lab / Marc Studer photos

The lab’s new features include:

  • touch screen presentation area with whiteboard capability,
  • four-person laptop collaboration display area,
  • touch screen monitors for the Windows computers,
  • monitor arms that adjust for improved ergonomics,
  • headphones at every station,
  • outlets on every desk to charge a phone and laptop,
  • scanners and printers, and
  • open floor plan with better wheelchair accessibility.

Students from all UW Bothell schools use the OLL, but it is perhaps especially useful to majors in Interactive Media Design and Media and Communication Studies, said Levesque (Master of Arts in Cultural Studies ’10), who manages the lab and supports student workers and faculty. He also teaches digital media workshops.

Student working at computer station
Renovated Open Learning Lab / Marc Studer photos

Student workers offer in-person support, and tutorials can help students learn the basics of digital media and software. These include Canvas, the campus course management tool; Final Cut Pro, iMovie and Adobe Premier, which are used to edit video; Photoshop for photo editing; and Adobe Audition and Audacity to edit sound.

“Flexibility” is the word Levesque uses to describe the renovated lab.

“We really wanted to design this space to be flexible for students so it could better support their learning, allowing them to be more innovative and collaborative,” he said.

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